Now that winter has officially begun, lots of folks may start experiencing Holiday Blues. Michele Many (Main-EEE), a clinical social worker with the LSU Department of Psychiatry says it's very common to become depressed during the Christmas season. She says this happens, in part, because we're getting less UV exposure due to the shorter winter days.
"So we have a lot less sunlight on our skin giving us Vitamin D and a lot less light hitting our retinas," said Many. "We feel better when we have more of it."
Many says if there have been some losses during the year, Christmas can be a painful reminder that a person isn't here with us. She also says other people may have sadness around the fact that they don't get a long with certain family members or relationships are a little strained.
"During the Holidays we tend to idealize other people and think everyone is perfect and happy and we should be the same way," said Many.
Many says one of the best ways you can battle the "bah humbugs" is to take care of yourself physically and try not set standards that are impossible to live up to. She says the Holidays are a prime time people develop impractical views about what our life should look like.
"And what our relationships should be like," said Many. "So we get sad and feel like we aren't meeting that unrealistic expectation."
The State Fire Marshall's Office is still investigating what caused a fire that killed twin two-year-old girls in Alexandria on Saturday. Firefighters responded to the deadly blaze just before 2:30 Saturday afternoon.
Fire Marshal Butch Browning says this is still a very active investigation.
"We're looking at a lot of different angles, right now. We don't have any conclusive cause. We're looking at several different things in the home."
The children were at home with their father when the fire broke out. Browning says firefighters were able to remove the children, named Annaya and Makaya, from the home.
"...and given emergency medical care and transported to two separate hospitals by ambulance where they actually died from their injuries sustained, at the hospital, from the fire."
Autopsies are pending on both girls. Browning says it will be after the Christmas holiday before the investigation is complete. It is unknown at this time if the home had working smoke detectors. Browning says it appears the fire started near a bedroom.
"At this point, we're looking at maybe the bedroom the children were in as a possible place where the fire started. Both of the children were actually in the bedroom at the time of the fire, together."
Today is the first full day of winter and many have not forgotten last years winter, which saw colder than normal temperatures and a few rounds of frozen precipitation. State Climatologist Barry Keim says the climate prediction centers forecast for the next three months indicates we could see a repeat.
"So basically for the winter season, they're calling for cooler than normal temperatures for Louisiana, but normal rainfall," said Keim.
Keim says the wildcard right now is the El Nino which has been in the forecast for a while, but hasnt formed yet. He says the climate prediction center is giving the system a 60% chance of forming sometime this winter.
"If this El Nino does form, they would probably keep the cooler than normal temperature in the forecast, but increase the rain chance," said Keim.
Keim says if the El Nino does form the way they think it will this winter, well get more rain and even possibly some freezing rain like we saw last winter.
The Saints had a chance to win the NFC South on Sunday, but instead the Black and Gold's season came to an end with a bitter 30-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. What makes it hurt even more is that, New Orleans finishes the year with five straight losses at the Dome. Coach Sean Payton on the lack of wins at home this year.
"Listen it's disappointing, cause this has been a really good venue for us, we've played well here," Payton said. "But yet, when we've played well, we've had good teams here, we haven't been consistently one of those teams this year and that's been pretty obvious."
The loss reflected the Saints disappointing season. They had four turnovers and the defense had trouble getting off the field on third down and ended up allowing Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan to throw for 322 yards. It's the first time a Payton coached team has missed the playoffs since 2008.
"Things you need to do to play consistently and win in this league, we haven't done those consistently, we've done it at times, and yet not consistently enough," Payton said.
A new poll shows that Republican Senator David Vitter's change in position on Common Core will benefit him has he runs for governor next year. Vitter announced earlier this month he opposes the new educational testing standards and a Southern Media and Opinion Research survey found that 64-percent agree with Vitter.
Pollster Bernie Pinsonat says the Senator's change on the issue was the right move, politically.
"It literally, probably saved his chance to become our next governor. He wouldn't have become governor if he would have stayed with Common Core."
He says one of the main issues in next year's governor's race may be Common Core. Pinsonat says it hasn't taken this issue very long to rise to the tops of voters minds.
"Common Core is something most of us hadn't heard of 24 months ago and now it's almost dominating the political rhetoric in Louisiana."
Another Republican gubernatorial candidate, Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne, says he supports the controversial education standards. Pinsonat says education is always a big issue in a gubernatorial election. He says Common Core will make next year's race interesting.
"You've got Vitter who's opposing it and you've got Dardenne who's supporting it. So, the governor's race is not going to be just about education, but one of the side issues, or maybe one of the main issues, will be Common Core."
Here in the final days of 2014, there are some things taxpayers can do to put them in a better financial position in 2015. John Theriot is an accountant with the Louisiana Society of CPAs and he says business owners should accelerate expenses, because anything they can pay before year’s end will get the 2014 deduction.
"And the opposite of that, they should also defer income," says Theriot. "If there is an opportunity for a small business owner to put off some income into next year they should do that."
Theriot says now would also be a good time to let your employer know you want to up your contribution on your 401K or change your filing status on your W4. He says before the new year, you also might want to think about making charitable donations, so you can deduct it on your 2014 tax form.
"Some people like to donate their old automobiles and they can get a nice deduction for that donation also," said Theriot.
Theriot says if know you’ll have a big federal or state tax bill in the spring, you can begin paying those taxes off.
"You'll want to run your numbers and see how you look so there aren't any big surprises come April 15th when you file your return," said Theriot.
New employment numbers are out and Louisiana's labor force grew to a record 2,179,837 in November. The number of people employed in the state jumped by 59,419 over the year. LWC
LWC Executive Director Curt Eysink says people are responding to Louisiana's strong and sustained job growth by joining our workforce in record numbers.
"What I suspect is that the national news about this growth is prompting people from around the country to come to Louisiana to get these jobs," said Eysink.
Eysink says, over the month of November, we added about 7,000 people working in Louisiana. He says this is outpacing a national trend.
"Nationally it balanced out to only 4,000 more people working from October to November," said Eysink.
Louisiana's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 6.5 percent in November which is a .9 percent increase from last year. But Eysink says the main reason our unemployment rate has risen is because of the speed of the growth of the labor force.
He says industrial announcements keep coming and people from around the nation are paying attention.
"Given that the announcements are still coming, I think that bodes very well for the future," said Eysink.
A group called Senate Conservatives Action is sponsoring radio ads that target Republican Metairie Congressman Steve Scalise. The ads accuse Scalise of siding with President Obama instead of standing on the conservative platform.
LaPolitics-dot-com publisher Jeremy Alford says this attack stems from the Congressman's efforts to help pass a $1.1 trillion dollar spending bill.
"Really, they're lashing out at him because he supported a bill that did not defund the Affordable Care Act and did not reverse the President's executive order on immigration. But it was, really, just a bunch of bills that kept the government from shutting down."
Alford says this is interesting since Scalise was able to capture the whip position because he was a favorite of the tea party movement, where the Senate Conservatives Action finds its roots. He says there is a bit of political intrigue here as this group supported Rob Maness in his run for the US Senate.
"Looking forward, one of the rumors that's being floated is that he could end up running against Steve Scalise."
Rumors are circulating that Maness may challenge Scalise in 2016. Alford says these kind of threats cannot be taken lightly. He says the big question is whether the Senate Conservatives Action is going to continue to hammer away at Scalise.
"If this is a one and done, flash in the pan, type deal, Scalise doesn't have much to worry about. But if he's part of a larger strategy, then this is definitely something he's going to be looking over his shoulder and wondering what's coming next."
The fall shrimping season comes to a close on some state waters Monday and some are calling this an average season for fishermen. Daren Martin, owner of Martin's Fresh Shrimp in Chauvin, says this was a fair season for shrimpers.
"We've had better, we've had worse. We try and judge this fall season on longevity. In other words, if you get some quik cold fronts come early in the year, the season ends rather abruptly."
Martin says there were those early cold fronts that came through the state, but the water stayed in the marsh allowing shrimpers to continue to work. He says he's seen better seasons and worse seasons.
"It wasn't a big catch, but it stayed pretty steady for longer than some seasons have."
Martin says the price of shrimp fluctuated a bit during the fall season, but, on average, was a little better than they are used to getting. He says, now that shrimpers will have to go into the Gulf of Mexico to get shrimp, consumers should expect to see a bit of a price hike.
"Because it costs us more to get out there and it's more wear and tear on the equipment and whatnot."
The last Saturday before Christmas could be as big a shopping day as Black Friday especially if you're still looking for TVs, appliances or clothes according to experts. Andrew Kuo (quoe) is a marketing professor at LSU.
He says the downside of the so-called "Super Saturday" is that shoppers are typically at the mercy of the retailers.
"And I'm sure everyone has been in the situation where if you've waited till the last minute to get that perfect gift, there's nothing you wouldn't spend," said Kuo.
MartketWatch reports Super Saturday could edge out Black Friday as the top sales day of the year in 2014. Kuo says the Day after Thanksgiving sales weren't as high this year as they have been in years past which is another reason stores are expected to be packed tomorrow.
"This is one of the last chances for many people to get to the mall and department stores because online shipping is over," said Kuo.
Kuo says this weekend you can expect excellent apparel sales, discounted appliances to help folks get ready for guests in their home and last minute TV deals. He says with the growing popularity of online shopping, consumers have been spreading out their store shopping throughout the entire month of December.
"Retailers like Amazon continue to dominate the online space and brick and mortar stores are doing more and more business online," said Kuo.
Gas prices are about 75-cents lower than a year ago as we head into what should be a busy two weeks of traveling during this holiday period. Gregg Laskoski, with gas-buddy-dot-com, says with the statewide average at about $2.30 a gallon, it should help consumers pay for other expenses.
"More presents for the family, it might be on a little bit more food, it could be on better accommodations as they travel greater distances," Laskoski said.
Laskoski says gas prices have been on a sharp decline since October and this trend should continue into next year. He says the US Department of Energy is projecting a national average price of $2.60 a gallon for 2015.
"If they are accurate, what that suggests also is that crude oil prices will remain well below $80 a barrel for a long, long time."
Laskoski says this Christmas gift of lower gas prices is the result of a decline in global crude oil prices.
A new Southern Media and Opinion Research poll shows 58-percent of Louisianians disapprove of Governor Bobby Jindal's job performance as he heads into his final year in office. 600 likely Louisiana voters were surveyed.
Pollster Bernie Pinsonat says you probably won't see the Governor's popularity increase very much as he ends his term.
"Cuts to the budget - teachers, teachers unions, state employees - all of those groups have been affected by some of his reforms and the people who don't like him have piled up."
But Pinsonat points out that the poll shows 70-percent of Republicans give the governor a positive job rating. With both houses of the state legislature being controlled by Republicans, Pinsonat doesn't see these poll numbers changing the way Jindal will do business in his last year.
"Jindal can not do anything he wants, but he's still got support in there by the Republicans because they've got to pay attention that Jindal's popular with 70-percent of their voters."
He doesn't think these poll numbers will factor into Jindal's decision to run for President in 2016. But Pinsonat says this could be something that could potentially hurt him.
"At the present time, Jindal's doing well enough with Republicans and some whites where he can get away with it. If it gets any worse, and he starts losing Republicans and then is unpopular with whites, then it will definitely hurt him."
Some much needed rain will be hitting Louisiana today. State Climatologist Barry Keim says this rain is coming at a great time as the state has been rain deficient over the last two months.
Keim says there is a coastal storm forming off the coast of Texas this morning.
"Which is going to track from west to east along Louisiana's coast today all the way through Saturday morning."
He says rainfall amounts with this storm could be anywhere from a half inch up to four inches of rain. Keim says there is the possibility of severe weather depending on the track of the storm.
"But, right now, the chances are very, very low as they have the storm tracking right along the coast. But if the storm actually ventures inland a little bit, it could increase the chances for severe weather."
Keims says the entire state is teetering right on the edge of drought with everything east of the Atchafalaya Basin experiencing moderate to severe drought conditions. Keim says the precipitation will be short lived with conditions clearing by Saturday morning.
"Leading to an absolutely beautiful weekend with high temperatures in the 50s in the northern half of the state and highs in the 60s in the southern half of the state."
Louisiana State Police is offering a $2500 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person responsible for allegedly running over and killing a pedestrian in St. Rose on Thanksgiving morning. Spokeswoman Melissa Matey says the crash took place on La 626 in St. Charles Parish.
"We've been working on this case and obtained surveillance video," said Matey.
Matey says 25-year-old Christin Allday was walking across the road at 1:30am and did not yield to the oncoming vehicle when she was struck. The victim sustained fatal injuries as a result.
Matey the vehicle did not stop or return to the scene of the crash and they now have surveillance video.
"It's from in and around the neighborhood at the time of the crash," said Matey. "They believe they have a suspect vehicle but we do need help from the public."
The suspect vehicle is believed to be a dark colored truck or SUV. Matey says callers do not have to give their name or testify to receive the cash reward.
A new poll on the 2015 governor's race shows republican senator David Vitter with a solid lead over three other opponents. Southern Media and Opinion Research pollster Bernie Pinsonat says Vitter benefits from high name recognition and because he's a vocal critic against President Barack Obama.
"Most voters are reeling against the national policies coming out of Barack Obama and the national democrats, and who benefits from that of course is Senator David Vitter," Pinsonat said.
Southern Media and Opinion Research surveyed 600 likely voters and 36-percent support Vitter. Pinsonat says Vitter is leading the field of three other opponents in the governor's race, even though 40-percent of the poll respondents disapprove of Vitter's job performance.
"He's always had high negatives with a certain segment of voters, probably about 30%, but it's not a concern for him until he gets into a runoff."
Democratic state representative John Bel Edwards finished second in the race horse poll, receiving 26-percent, followed by republican Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne at 19-percent. Pinsonat says Edwards benefits by receiving most of the African-American vote.
"He only needs a few white (votes) for him to get into a runoff and there are enough low-income whites that will vote for him that pretty well assure himself into a runoff spot," Pinsonat said.
Now that the United States and Cuba have announced plans to renew diplomatic relations and resume trade, what does that mean for Louisiana? Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain says resumed trade would be a big benefit for the state, especially the Port of New Orleans.
"Prior to 1961 about 65 percent of all the imports and exports to Cuba went through the port of New Orleans."
Cuba was the Port of New Orleans' largest trade partner, prior to the embargo. Governor Jindal opposes the President's plan to "normalize" relations with the Communist nation calling it a disservice to those in Cuba who wish to be free and who live in fear of a dictatorial regime. However, Strain says other non-democratic countries enjoy normal trade relations with the US.
"We've normalized trade with China and with Vietnam. And, of course doing this with Cuba, we'll do this in a step-by-step fashion, but I think now it is time."
A 2005 visit to Cuba by then Governor Kathleen Blanco established limited trade between Louisiana and the island nation. Strain says Cuba needs what Louisiana can provide, especially rice and poultry. But he says food will not be the only thing being exported there.
"It's also going to be able them to buy small types of agricultural equipment, small tractors and that sort of thing."
Christmas is one week from today and many people would call the next 7 days the most stressful of the year. LSU AgCenter Life specialist Diane Sasser says it's a good idea to get plenty of rest and if you're too tired -- slow down.
She says it's important to keep smiling and stay positive because getting too easily irritated is unproductive.
"Or everything else you do is just shot down the drain because you're SO stressed out about it you forget what this is really about," said Sasser.
Sasser says you'll be doing yourself a big favor if you get solid plans in place now so there isn't a big scramble next week. She says trying to achieve the "perfect" Holiday can cause worry and tension.
"Because of mom is unhappy, then dad is unhappy and the whole family gets that way," said Sasser. "Talking it out will help everyone understand the way you feel."
Sasser says if you're lonely or missing a loved one, attending a community holiday event may brighten your spirits. She says it's always good to stay on budget and keep a list of everything if at all possible.
"If you think you're going to get a certain number of things at X amount, stick to it," said Sasser.
Lafayette Congressman Charles Boustany plans to meet with Veterans Affairs officials today over their decision to push back the completion date of two new VA clinics in Lafayette and Lake Charles. It's reported that the opening of both clinics are delayed by almost a year to 2016.
Boustany says these delays are unacceptable.
"They have delayed things time and time again. We had beurocratic problems, I solved all this. We got the legislation passed in August, overcoming a number of hurdles. And then to get this kind of treatment again from the VA is just purely ridiculous."
Boustany says his office has not been contacted by the VA in regard to this issue. He says he learned of the delays second-hand. Boustany says the VA is sending mixed signals to veterans and he intends to get to the bottom of this.
"They need to quit being part of the problem and the VA needs to come clean and be very specific on what they're doing."
It's reported that VA officials made the announcement of the delay at a town hall meeting in Lake Charles. Boustany says he's determined to get answers becuase our veterans deserve to be treated a whole lot better than this. He says this mistreatment of veterans has gone on long enough.
"My concern, after getting through these hurdles with the legislation and finally getting it passed, was that the VA would come up with some other stupid scheme for delaying things. And it sounds like it."
A public demonstration is being held this evening in downtown Opelousas to protest grand jury decisions in Missouri and New York where charges were not pressed in officer involved deaths. It's being organized by newly-elected alderman Tyrone Glover who says the St. Landry Parish Sheriff's Office, Opelousas Police, the DA's office and the city marshal are all participating.
"I wanted to do it in conjunction with law enforcement, instead of law enforcement being on one side and citizens being on the other side," said Glover. "We want to show that we can stand together and we are concerned."
In New York, Eric Garner died in a choke hold while saying, "I can't breathe" and the officer detaining him is not being indicted. Glover says today's rally will not be a march but a dialogue among all participants to make sure everyone is on the same page should something like this happen in St. Landry Parish.
"The District Attorney's Office is the watchdogs, and before something like this explodes we wanted to get together and vow to make peace," said Glover.
The rally will begin at 5pm in Opelousas' Courthouse Square. Glover says he's good friends with Sheriff Bobby Guidroz and they both agree law enforcement responded the wrong way in Garner's case and in the Ferguson case of Michael Brown. Glover says this rally will be a peaceful one, not negative.
"I applaud law enforcement for taking this leap, because I know it's not easy," said Glover. "It's sad that the good cops have to suffer for the bad."